Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Basics of Tea

Around the world tea has become an integral part of many cultures, from English Breakfast and Darjeeling in the English speaking countries to Sencha and Matcha in East Asia. There are many varieties, with each region celebrating the joys of tea in its own unique way.

Now tea has become fashionable all over again, attracting health conscious consumers seeking a more natural and healthy lifestyle. And for good reason: tea is loaded with powerful phenolic antioxidants that can, as part of a well-balanced diet, help promote wellness. Exciting research indicates that tea even has the potential to speed metabolism and promote weight loss.

Three Main Types

There are dozens of varieties of tea, all made from leaves of the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The soil in which the plant is grown, the age of the leaves, the processing of the leaves after harvest and the addition of scents and spices all work together to determine the flavor, the health benefits and the name given to the particular variety of tea. Most teas fall into one of three general classifications:

Green tea is made from relatively young leaves that are dried without fermentation.

Black tea is made from mature leaves that are moistened and aged, to promote fermentation.

Oolong tea is only partially fermented. Chinese oolong is aged longer than Formosan oolong.

How We Brew Tea

We usually like to brew tea leaves for at least 3 minutes, in order to transfer the maximum level of beneficial phytonutrients from the leaf to the beverage.

To reduce the caffeine found in tea, either use naturally decaffeinated tea leaves or make your own decaf:

First brew the tea for 30 seconds and discard the water. Most of the caffeine but only a small percentage of the polyphenols will have been removed. Then add more hot water and brew the tea for 3 to 5 minutes to extract the polyphenols.

If brewing tea for 3 minutes gives it too strong a taste, you can improve its flavor in two ways:

(1) Brew your tea in a small amount of boiling hot water. After 3 minutes add additional water to dilute the taste.

(2) Add spices such as cinnamon to sweeten the flavor and enhance the aroma.

Homemade Iced Tea

When the weather turns warm, making homemade iced tea is a snap. Simply brew the tea the same way, and then pour it into a glass or ceramic container and transfer to the fridge. When the tea is chilled you will have a delightful all-natural iced tea to enjoy with zero calories.

Given the healing properties and sheer pleasure of this remarkable beverage, it is no wonder our whole family enjoys drinking tea throughout the day.

1 comment:

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